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Book of the Fallen:Nathanial's Folly, Chapter 3
A quick note here by way of explanation. I know the first couple of chapters of this story have been up for a while but i have decided to act on the suggestion that I break up the long blocks of text and so I am splitting them up and posting the second half as new hubs. I hope that clears things up.
There’s a patch in the hull of your left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell….
J.R.R. Tolkein, Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit
North America, Somewhere between what is now Nebraska and South Dakota.
The setting sun painted the rolling grasses of the plains with shades of pink and violet; if not for the gloomy task ahead one might even think it was the perfect evening. Laughing Elk let a thin smile crease his sun weathered face, it was a fine evening he decided. He wouldn’t let the daunting task that lay before him ruin what the Great Spirit had provided. The wind moved the vast sea of grass and brought with it the sound of laughter, not the sweet playful laughter of children, but the mindless laughter of one who was cursed by evil. Laughing Elk looked to the far edge of the village to where a young brave was bound hand and foot to a wooden stake driven into the ground. The brave continued to cackle as he kicked up dust with his feet. Black Eagle, his sister-son had been taken by an evil spirit during the last moon and it had fallen to him as medicine man of the tribe to gather the elders and have a spirit dance to drive the evil away.
He had promised his sister that he would do all that he could for Black Eagle, but it had taken almost a full turning of the moon to gather the elders and then wait for the proper time to hold the ceremony. He worried that the spirit might have too great of a hold on the boy. The fading sun dipped below the horizon as he turned to make his way to the circle where they would dance and drive the evil from Black Eagle, as he walked he notice a stranger approaching.
Laughing Elk had traveled as far as the snow capped mountains in the west and he had seen the great water to the east. He had heard more stories then he could ever hope to share with his people and been a part of more ceremonies then could easily be numbered, but none of that prepared him for the stranger who walked towards him that day.
“I have been sent to aid you in the task that lies ahead”
By that time a small crowd had gathered around Laughing Elk, all of them including the assembled elders looked to him to answer this strange man. Laughing Elk stood looking at the stranger for a long moment as if he was looking through him and then his gaze settled on the stranger’s eyes. It was then that he knew that this stranger was a spirit warrior sent by the Great Spirit to help them in this troubled time.
“Blue Eyes long have we waited for a sign that Great Spirit hears ours prayer, tonight we have proof. Tonight we will sing and perform the spirit dance and with your help drive the evil from Black Eagle so that our tribe will have peace again.”
Blue Eyes only nodded and turned back towards the ring where Black Eagle sat and so began the spirit dance. Black Eagle had been placed inside an intricately designed circle of small stones. Around the circle sat the seven elders of the tribe while the selected spirit dancers began their slow and rhythmic movements. Laughing Elk took his place before Black Eagle and began to chant intone with the elders. The dancers dressed in bearskins and buffalo hides, eagle feathers and deer horns traced magical symbols with their bodies while the light from the four large bonfires cast long shadows around the ceremony. They sang and danced for quite some time and as they did Laughing Elk watched only the boy, several times it appeared that the evil would be drawn out only to have it take a firmer hold and return to Black Eagles body, finally they stopped needing to rest before continuing.
“The evil is strong and will not give up the boy easily” he said to Blue Eyes
“Begin again, only this time I will give what help I can” at that he stepped into the circle and drew out a sword. Black Eagle’s mother gasped in fear for her son but Blue Eyes drove the sword into the ground before him and then he knelt placing Black Eagles hands on the sword and his own on top of them. “Now begin again”
They began to chant again, the spirit dancers carving intricate circles around the elders, this time Laughing Elk watched both the boy and Blue Eyes. He saw nothing at first but then just below their singing voices he thought he heard more singing, beautiful singing and in it was a power unlike any he had ever heard, a thousand voices strong it sounded. He glanced around the circle but no one seemed to notice, he quickly looked back to Blue Eyes. He was muttering soft words that could not be heard, and Laughing Elk seemed to see a slight glow around their hands. He had no time to consider this because at that moment Black Eagle reared his head back and gave a mournful cry. He expelled a cloud of black smoke. Then slumped over to the ground his body racked with a terrible coughing. Blue Eyes was quick, he was on his feet before Laughing Elk could blink, the light from the large bonfires glinted off the sword in his hands. He cried out something as the black smoke coalesced into a man like shape and then cut the head from it, the body falling to ash at his feet. He turned placing his sword back into its sheath and helped Black Eagle into a sitting position all the while whispering something in his ear.
He looked to Laughing Elk and said “The evil is gone, two maybe three days and the boy will remember nothing of what happened. Peace will return to your people”
“Praise to the Great Spirit for sending you Blue Eyes, without you I fear that my sister-son would be dead and the evil would taint our tribe forever”
“I did only what I must nothing more” as he said this he laid a small cairn of stones over the spot where the evil spirit had fallen to ash and then walked towards the edge of the firelight.
“Blue Eyes! where do you go? Stay and find peace.”
“My task is not yet done and what peace I need I carry with me” and then as suddenly as he came he was gone.
San Fernando, California, or Somewhere close to it
He dove to the left just before the blast of super hot fire hit the spot he had just vacated. The dragons breathe scorching the brick of the courtyard. He held his large oval shield up as he dashed behind a marble pillar hoping that the bronze shield would give him a small amount of protection from the liquid death the dragon was spewing. He chanced a peek around the edge of the pillar moving his head back just in time as the red-gold scales of the dragons tail flashed by, striking the wall just a few feet beyond the pillar. He quickly darted to the next pillar in line keeping his shield between him and the open courtyard beyond. This had stopped being fun five minutes ago.
“Relatively unguarded my a@- whoa” he moved just in time as a blast of fire drenched the pillar he was behind. He ran out into the courtyard seeking the protection of a raised stone platform with a large copper bowl on it. The dragon let out a roar that shook the very stones of the courtyard and he could feel it rattling the fillings in his teeth, if he had fillings in this world which he wasn’t sure he did. Yep he was sure he had stopped having fun the minute this giant ugly worm reared his ugly head.
“I am going to kill that dwarf if I find him again” that was the last time he trusted a one-legged dwarf. In fact, that would be his new rule, never buy a treasure map from a one-legged dwarf in the city of Gomorrah.
“Come out puny human, we all must die sometime”
Again he marveled at the complexity of this computer generated world. He had realized by now that he was mistaken earlier this wasn’t a game. There were no rules, no objectives, and no rewards for making the right choice. Instead it was a living, breathing, constantly changing computer generated environment. Speaking of change he needed to change his position again as the dragon located his current hiding spot and swung his large tail at him. He rolled to his left to the next pedestal in line looking back at the tumbled ruins of the pedestal he had just left. It began to shimmer for a minute and then appeared in pristine form again. He hadn’t seen that happen before, the system must have been having trouble dealing with the code either that or this place was a work in progress and they hadn’t quite gotten the hang of dragon destroyed masonry.
“Ignorant human, I can smell your stink, you can’t hide forever.”
For once Thomas kept his mouth shut. First rule of the gamers handbook, let sleeping dragons lie or in this case don’t tempt fate. Keeping his back to the stone of the pedestal he looked over his shoulder through the space created by the lip of the copper bowl and the top stone of the pedestal. The dragon loomed large in the center of the courtyard. His massive wings beating the air sending the embers from the numerous fires he had started swirling. His cat like eyes searching through the smoke, seeking for his latest hiding spot, liquid fire dripping from his massive jaws as his tongue tasted the air. The golden scales of his powerful chest billowing in and out, Thomas knew he didn’t have much time, moments maybe more before he blew fire at his current hiding spot. The pedestal didn’t look like it could take the full brunt of that force, there at the end of the courtyard a sort of raised platform like an alter, that should offer him some protection. Now he would have to time it just right.
“BURN” the dragon reared up off its front legs its power hind legs clawing deeper into the ground, the wings beating like a winds of a storm. He let go a massive gout of flame right at the pedestal. At that moment Thomas dropped his shield and ran as fast as he could towards the end of the courtyard and the relative safety of the alter. As he ran something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye, well no time to stop and check it out now. He would have to wait until he was safely behind the large stone platform that made up the alter. He made it just as the dragon finished destroying the pedestal that he had been hiding behind, the intense fire melting his bronze shield to a puddle of slag. He had a few moments to breathe now, he knelt down and peered around the corner of the alter’s foundation. The dragon had gone for it, at least for now; he was sure that in a few minutes or more he would pick up his scent again. He looked across the courtyard at the thing that had caught his attention as he ran. It was a strange inscription running the length of the far wall. He inched back around the foundation until the bulk of the alter was between him and the dragon. It was time to get the hell out of here.
“Widget!” he called “Widget I need a door and I need it now!”
In the past few weeks he had fought along side heroes, seen lakes of fire and strange places with names like Gehenna and Megiddo. He had killed orcs and trolls, plundered long forgotten hordes of gold, and hammered raw steel into a finely honed blade. In a tavern in the city of Edom he watched a dancing girl who turned his bones to water and stirred his heart like no one had ever done before, all this and yet nothing seemed familiar to him until know. This place, dragon aside, pulled at his memory. He had seen it or a picture of it somewhere before. The strange inscription did nothing but heighten that sense of familiarity. Yet he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Come on Widget. Where are you?”
A small blue octagon suddenly zipped into sight; unfortunately it coincided with the dragon realizing he was still in the courtyard.
“A noble effort human but ultimately futile. You will burn”
Thomas ignored the dragon for the time being, not an easy thing to do considering roasting alive wasn’t on his list of things to accomplish, and focused on Widget.
“What the hell took you so long?”
“If you wanted me at your beckon call you should have made me into a dog or better yet a parrot, so I could be sitting on your shoulder at all times but you didn’t so get off my back. The moment you entered the structure some kind of massive security protocol slammed down and it has been giving me fits for the last couple of hours.”
A roar again shook the whole courtyard “What in the name Zeus’s butthole was that”
“That would be your security protocol, or as I like to call of him, Fluffy, now let’s cut the chatter and get me a door out of here!”
“Give me a minute boss, the security on this line is like nothing I have ever seen. It has been playing havoc with my internals”
“I haven’t got a minute, or didn’t you notice the 30 foot red and gold, fire breathing human munching dragon out there.”
“Sarcasm isn’t going to get you out of here any quicker. I got one boss but the exit vector is random I have no idea where it goes or where we will end up.”
“Anything is preferable to here. Do a quick scan of that inscription over there and a building layout too while you are at it.”
“Do you wanna get out of here or take pretty pictures, cause I can take this doorway offline anytime if you like the place so much.
Just then the dragon settled atop the alter his massive jaws opening preparing snap him in two. “It ends now human” yeah it did only not the way he thought.
“The door Widget, Now! You get the scans and follow after”
A faint shimmering appeared on the back wall of the courtyard just behind him. With out looking back he ran and dove into the light and everything went black.